They have gone away?
Or hidden under some bush!  So, we are all now populists!

Yes, that is how we have to describe the Delhi scene!
There is more news or clamour now about the austerity drive launched by Pranab Mukerjee, the unflappable one man for all seasons!

He travels economy class while some of his colleagues at any rate plead for the age or their physical discomforts to allow them to travel by business or executive class.
Poor S.K.Krishna and his twittering deputy, both seem to love their luxuries and their newly acquired ministerial jobs and they started operate out of five star hotels.
So, who knows, these twins’ luxury-loving life styles, their sartorial gambits, their gymns and their much-touted other display habits that might have provoked some other colleagues.

Yes, once the media got hold the scent all hell broke out and every other newspaper or magazine got hold their imagination and the press went to town so to say.
Everyone then also tried to take credit. First, it was Pranab Mukerjee who requested his colleagues to tread carefully.

Then, the credit was appropriated by Sonia Gandhi who too seems to have requested the two high profile colleagues to take cover. Poor Krishna spilled the beans. He let it be known he finds the Maharashtra guest house or the Karnataka guest house that are the only two outlets for a man who had presided over the two states in his previous political avatar. They were crowded and they proved to be below his status to operate.

So, he opted to god knows where he disappeared for the time being! Then came his foreign jaunt. Yes, who cares to call a minister’s foreign trip in some honourific jargon. This jaunt to some far-off god-forsaken country, you remember when Chamberlin, the UK world war minister was asked why he didn’t bother about Germany occupying Checoslavakia, all he could say was that was some “far-off country whose name he didn’t bother to recall! So, this time our Krishna was despatched without much ado in a commercial flight!

So too other ministers. One Bansal, what portfolio he holds? Bansal cancelled his jumboorie of some ministers and MPs; he was to take off to Greece at an estimated cost of Rs.1.5 crore. Oh God! He cancelled listening or deferring to Pranab Mukerjee’s own role model.

So, the whole of New Delhi is now buzzing with austerity measures.
This has evoked a very mixed reaction. Some like the former Finance Secretary Vasudev call this a cosmetic exercise. Others call this no less cosmetic or symbolic and doesn’t amount to much!

So, there is now more excitement, less action and less serious economic reforms too!

It is reported that the Planning Commission quarters are empty of the flashy cars that you used to see earlier. Ahluwalia himself seems to be unemployed these days. There are no high profile claaers from the corporate quarters. Reason?

No other reason except that a heavyweight like Pranab Mukerjee is in charge of the economy and thus even the Prime Minister who was once under him as a Reserve Bank Governor and even now it is told the PM is very reverential before the former boss! So, there is not much work for the PM either! So, the PM is now devoting more time to foreign affairs, hopefully not on Pakistan! After he got a rather rough time from the BJP Opposition, the PM is now concentrating on other distant countries!

The Indo-US nuclear deal is also in a very delicate stage after the Pokhran-11 was disputed and even the venerable Kalam was silenced, the former President chose silence on his own after his physics knowledge was question by no less than the former boss of the atomic energy dept, Homi Sethna!

So, the current political climate is not conducive for any constructive engagement with the economy or the polity. So, there is a certain cooling off period in the setup and everyone is wondering where we are all going?

Wrote one New Delhi columnist who is very close to the main players:
He wrote:
“The big mystery of the Budget among even the Congressmen is the silence of the Prime Minister and his colleagues on the second generation economic reforms. The finance minister seems to have read the people’s verdict in the election as a mandate for aam aadmi socialism, rather than free market capitalism. Mukerjee cleverly quoted Manmohan Singh’s definition of the mandate to steer away from pro-market reforms”(Sachidananda Murthy, The Week).

It is also quoted that when the cabinet met there was no consensus. While the Prime Minister proposed disinvestment in the public sector banks and insurance companies, some ministers were unhappy.

The same columnist writes that one minister even wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying that the Budget should not have any specific proposal for privatisation or even 49 per cent sale of government stake in banks. Some other ministers invoked Indira Gandhi’s legacy. Bank nationalisation.

So, there is in this government a return to Indira Gandhi days return to poverty reduction, so the NREGA is everywhere, in government discussions and also in other debates.

It is vote bank politics that seems to hold the imagination of the men and women in Delhi scheme of things.

Yes, you have the economic reformers in good strength in this cabinet too. Chidambaram, Maran, Nath, Sibal, even S.M.Krishna etc. Most of them the new comers. But you have the Indira loyalists and the socialists as well. Mukerjee leads this pack with Antony, even Moily, Mamata. Yes, most of these ministers, both self-proclaimed reformers, as well as the self-claimed or rubber-stamped socialists, there is no, cue to the current problems that dog the government.

For the record, the PSUs are also active in the IPOs space. Between 2004-2009, there were as many as 278 IPOs totaling 25.12 billion dollars. In the past five years, of 13 PSUIPOs, launched worth 6.2 billion 12 were trading in profit. Not bad! Pt
Meltdown, homegrown or imported, rising prices, rising fiscal deficit, farmers suicides, sugar production fall, sugar imports and other food imports, edible oil and pulses and also the clue to the multiple social issues from malnourished children’s deaths to other deaths, new and old, latest being the swine flu scare, not yet controlled.

So, what is the outlook?

We invite readers’ opinion.

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